Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Silent Goodbye

I've had this conversation with a few individuals on different levels in the past.  Every time I switch jobs, I'm always taken by surprise when I find out who my friends really are.  I've had a few job changes in the past where friends who I considered close, wanted little to do with me once my lifestyle had changed.  I can acknowledge that there are work friends and life friends, but I guess I'm a poor judge of which friendships are friendships of convenience.

I knew this time would come.  It's sad and lonely when you come to realize that many of your friendships aren't.  You can't help but question whether they ever were.  Living on the road gives me few opportunities to make new friends.  I make plenty of connections, but meaningful friendships are going to be hard to come by.

I took a trip up to Pennsylvania over the weekend of the 4th of July.  I put about 2400 miles on the truck, and spent over 40 hours in the saddle.  I got to drop in on some friends and family, take care of some vehicle and paperwork issues, swap out some items in storage, and spend some time with my bestest furry pal in the word.

I miss my dog more than many people would understand.  She saw me through some tough emotional personal times, and I've never been able to shake the feeling that I left her behind on what would have been the coolest retirement adventure of her life.

She would have struggled here.  She would be staying alone in a truck camper for 12 hours a day, her aging legs struggling to climb in and out on the steep steps.  I've had an air conditioner failure that likely would have cooked her in her black coat, and many campgrounds won't let you leave an animal alone in the RV.

My trip gave me some closure.  I needed to see that she was well adjusted to her new home.  She has other dog friends, has taken to playing with toys (something she's never taken to before), and it's clearly her home.  I feel a lot better knowing that we're still best pals, but she stayed at her home when I left.

I was surprised just how foreign my old stomping ground felt.  I never felt the urge to check on the old house while I was there, despite passing within half a mile of it in my travels.  I didn't miss the building whose only comfort was the dismal familiarity that it previously offered.

I didn't buy the house for me.  It was the right place, at the right time, at the right price, for the right reasons.  When the tire swing in the back yard was discovered, my opinion no longer mattered.  As life moved on, people moved out.  As time passed, what was left become a daily reminder of my own failures and broken dreams.

My current job has taken over my outlook on neighborhoods, as I drove through previously familiar places subconsciously scanning for meters, fences, property boundaries, and gas line markings that had previously gone completely unnoticed.  My old turf became less of an area of boundaries, and more of a series of points of interest.  I've spent so much of my time looking at maps on my tablet, that I felt naked driving through areas that I already knew.

I got to visit with the people that I had left behind, and the conversations were different.  There was more meaning to them.  There was more listening.  Just knowing that the time I had there was precious, made for a more involved conversation.

There was a conversation with my sister talking about how some trips just can't be documented.  Sometimes you have to put the camera down and experience it.  I've occasionally seen the same thing with this blog.  Sometimes the documentation dilutes the experiences.

As I bounced from point to point with only a slight regard for planning, it felt bittersweet.  I've started what I set out to do.  I found myself saying a silent goodbye to my old neighborhood, to the people whose character I've misjudged, to the people who aren't who I thought they were, to the ones I left behind, and to a life that made me feel trapped in a way few understand.

The long drive left plenty of time for introspection.  This trip wasn't for the blog.  I found closure in knowing that the people I love are still alright.  I found unexpected eye watering joy in the words "Welcome to Arkansas".  Home no longer has an address.

My journey isn't finished.  I'm not sure where I'm headed, and that's the point.  This part of my journey can't be quantified or documented.  Your metrics no longer apply.  This part is personal, and it's mine to walk alone.  I've no pictures to share as I was living in the moment.  These memories belong to me.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Oh yeah. The Blog.

Problems have been hitting me consistently.  They're not overwhelming, just constant.  I guess I'm just average whelmed.  I'm grateful that they're coming at a pace that I can handle them.

Just a cool pic of my water heater at night.  Giant unsupervised flames in my camper while I sleep.  What could go wrong?

That's a new one.

I still get excited when I find an old car that would have already rusted to it's death in PA.

I don't speak French.

Saturday breakfasts.  All the foods.  Notice the pants in the background.  I was prepared.

After I hooked my water up to the tap, I found a leak under both faucets.  I thought that this faucet, with it's extension hose and sprayer, would make for a nice kitchen faucet.  I didn't think about the extra holes I would have to drill in the counter, or the space under the counter needed for the hose.  It made for an all day project, but came out nice.

You've seen this view before.  There used to be a power cable box here.

Ironically, the best way I found to remove it was with a big ol' hammer.  I had the radio on, and they were playing Pantera.  That helped quite a bit.
I had to go 75 mph to get around this clown.  He was swerving all over the place, driving full blast down the shoulder.

Taped to a telephone pole.  I'm going to go eat a chicken nugget.

A place for everything, and everything in it's place.  I thought we tried this before I left.  I thought that the black guitar wouldn't fit this way.  I was wrong.

I gained a few square feet of space with this shelf.  Square feets matter in a truck camper.  It was a well spent $30.

By the end of the week, this was a puddle.

I started getting alarms while I was out at work.  The camper would get up past 80 degrees during the daytime.  It wasn't really much of an issue after I got home.  After 5:00, it would cool down, and the air conditioning would catch back up.  Friday and Saturday saw temperatures of 95 degrees.  The air conditioner all but failed.  It felt better standing outside.

I cleaned out the coils the best I could

I tracked it down to this.  I would tap it, and the air would kick on and off. unfortunately, it would only run the compressor for about 15 seconds before it would overheat, and trip.  After that, the circuitry would wait 2 1/2 minutes before letting it try again.  Essentially, my air conditioner was only running about 10% of the time.
This is the first time I parked this rig in direct sunlight.  The air conditioner would turn the camper into an ice box at night.  It only failed when I needed it most.  It's a 30 year old air conditioner.  It's a sealed system.  I could have tried to do some work-arounds, but it's too damn hot to be messing with it.

I needed something now.

A comparable window unit would have cost $250 at Walmart.  It would have been quieter and more efficient.  Somehow, putting it on the roof, makes it cost $800, and sound like a jet engine.  I'm really disappointed with my purchase, but man I was tired of sweating.  I'm outside in the sun all day.  This is not negotiable.

Solid fiberglass roof.  I got this camper for a steal.  I couldn't be happier with it.  The stuff that's failing is 30 years old.  It's time.

I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the jet wash.  At least I'm not sweating.
Anyway, that's it.  A thousand bucks in camper repairs makes for a pretty bland blog post.  Don't care.  Have Water.  Have air conditioning. Am happy.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Flooding Continues

After I was warned about the possibility of being trapped in the campground, I stocked up on supplies.  I filled up the gas can, and grabbed 8 more gallons of distilled water (LPT: go to the baby food aisle when the shelves are empty).

I actually wasn't worried about being flooded in, other than the fact I couldn't work.  I would be fine for a week or two cut off of the rest of the world.  In fact, there is a part of me looking forward to it.

Water flowing back through storm drains.

Monday after work, I found a piece of paper under a rock on my camper steps.  It  reiterated the possibility of being cut off by flooding.  The river was supposed to crest the next day, but there were no guarantees.  There was also a tropical storm headed up from the gulf threatening rain for the end of the week.  With the ground already saturated, and the water up to the roadway, I decided it was time to go.

Man, this old ford has been great.  I smile every time I start it.
I took Tuesday off of work to move the rig.  Nice thing about working 10 hour days, is that you have the chance of making one of them up if you're rained out or can't work one day.  I took advantage of it this week.

I headed toward a campground where some of my co-workers are staying.  The rent is reasonable, and there's free laundry.  The downside is that here aren't any bathrooms.

I pressure tested my system a few weeks ago.  It held pressure, sort of.  My hypothesis is that it was leaking through an internal check valve.  I had planned on water testing the system as soon as I cleared a path for the fresh water tank drain (drill a hole in the truck bed).  The pressure is on.

I made it through the week by using my extra purchased distilled water to flush the commode, and for taking showers.  I had purchased a "shower head" attachment (go ahead, click that link, and look at the 3rd picture down) that screwed on to a 2 liter bottle last year for boondocking.  It worked-ish.

By weeks end, I just opened a fresh gallon jug, and ran a pot of water through the coffee pot.  I then dumped the hot water back into the jug.  This got the temperature just about right for showering, and I used the remainder of the jug for flushing.  The biggest problem is that there wasn't a lot of ceiling height, and I lost the use of one hand to holding the bottle.  Imagine jamming yourself into your high school locker, and taking a shower one handed.  It was awkward, but it worked enough.  People outside the camper likely heard me squeeking against the shower walls, and saw the camper rocking, and assumed that there were porpoises mating inside or something.

I spent the weekend sorting out my water system.

But, uhh, what if I'm into that kind of thing?


Plenty of pressure.  I soaked everything nearby when I opened the faucet.

Look how tidy that is.  The campground is super crowded.  Being small, and only needing a 30A plug makes me pretty flexible. Any port in the storm.

If you look closely, you can see some welding on the bottom step.  The edge closest the telephone pole broke loose while I was packing up.  The owner of the campground happens to have a welding shop, and had me fixed up in about half an hour.  This might come in handy during my stay.

Party at Warren's house.
I know it may seem trivial to some, but I've never used the water in any of the previous three RV's I've owned.  I sold the house in May of last year, meaning that this is the first time I've had running water in a year.  I feel like a king.

The better I get this rig sorted, the more I can get rid of, the less crowded I feel.  Getting the water working, means that I've added even more flexibility to an already very flexible setup.  The more flexible I can be, the easier it is to pick campgrounds.  If I can continue to follow through with my plans, I might not need hook-ups at all in the coming year...

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Noah's Park

I decided on Burns Park as my destination in Little Rock.  It's a bit expensive, but it's close to everything and like most state parks, is quiet and mostly serene.  This park has a similar vibe to Lefleur's Bluff, in that it's a small piece of quiet right next to a city.  My stay here is limited to one month, but I figured that it would work well enough till I figured out where I was going.

I haven't had a cigarette for a couple weeks.  I found a vape shop, and I've been going on that.  It might be cheating, but I feel the glycerin based products are much more benign than smoking.  I can breath much better now, and have been taking the bike out on occasion.  It helps that it's about 15% of the price too.  The only problem is that you have to make ritual of charging your mod, and refilling it daily.

It's also much more convenient on the job.  As it turns out, people generally frown upon you smoking while you're looking for gas leaks.  I can hop in the truck, and take a hit or two, then I'm on my way.  Even better, is that my truck no longer stinks of cigarettes. 

Now that I'm settling in to the truck camper, it's becoming ever more apparent that I need to make it more of a home.  When I packed up to leave, I took more than I needed.  Space is tight in a truck camper.  Having 5% too much stuff, feels like having 100% too much stuff.  There simply isn't the room to leave things laying around.

This has lead me to start throwing things away.  This part is still a bit painful to me.  There has been a lot of stuff that is brand new and unused, that get tossed in the bin.  There's also a ton of little things that make a massive improvement.  One such thing is cleaning up my counter space.

I use my sammich griddle for a large percentage of my cooking.  Unfortunately, there's almost no room on my counter for it.  The griddle would sit on the burners of the stove when in use, and would be put awkwardly in the sink when it wasn't.  I decided to spend part of a day sorting this very thing out.  It's not an issue that would come up in a sticks and bricks, but in a truck camper, every inch counts.

A place for everything, and everything in it's place.

That is 100% more convenient . I still have random stuffs hiding in the basin under the board, but I finally have a workable solution.  I use the griddle for most of my meats, and I still have access to the stove top for searing vegibles and whatnot.  For the record, that's as clean as the stove gets.  I sanded off the paint trying to scour the stains off.  I might repaint it sometime down the road.

As it happens, I tripped across a fitted cutting board at Camping World.  It was $35, but it was the exact dimensions that I needed.  It even came pre-broken for me.  How nice.

Now THIS is how you pick up garbage.  Too bad he didn't grab that Lincoln while he was at it.

My site at Burns was right next to the dumpster.  Normally that would irritate me, but I cleaned a lot of stuff out of the rig.  Whenever the dumpster was empty, the host would have to put a stick down in the dumpster so the trash pandas could get back out (center of pic).

I'm nowhere serious about it, but I'm loosely looking at different RV options.  I'm in a pretty narrow demographic.  I'm looking for a camper in the sub 5,000# range that is built well enough to live in full-time.

Unfortunately, most of the small RV's are small because of the price point.  I anticipated this.  There are a handful, however, that have a sufficiently decent build that might hold up to more than occasional use.  Most start in the low 20s.

Since RV's can be used as a "second home" in certain instances on taxes, it opens up the financing for much longer terms.  I could get in to one with a payment in the mid $200 range.  The problem is that I'll be upside-down on the payment for the entire term.  It's simply not an option

This thing was super nice inside.  The slide had a big ol' reclining couch with cupholders.  Very comfortable, and a decent bathroom.  Maybe down the road.  I'll probably just keep dumping cash into what I already have.

Spotted a BMW Vixen out in the wild.

If you've not been following the news, there's been substantial flooding along the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers.  The Arkansas has been rising quite a bit, and there's rain threatening.  Burns is the high ground, and with the memorial day holiday, everything nearby is booked.  This won't be the first time I've been chased off by flooding

Bike ride stopped short.

I started the day in this field, and it was dry.  This photo was at lunch time, and there had been no rain.  The Arkansas river is right on the other side of those power lines.
 The flooding was starting to affect my work.  I had a few maps that had to be re-prioritized because of rising waters.  Much of Burns park has been closed off, and there;s an influx of people coming to the campground since they're getting run out of flooded parks.

There's a problem with this.  Burns Campground is on higher ground, but the road leading into it is not.  The golf course next to it is flooded, and the rising waters are threatening to cross the road.

It's a potato pic, but the flashing lights came around on Wednesday evening around 10:00pm.  We had some heavy rain, and the road out is in the watershed.  The road was covered with running water for a few hours.   The ground is saturated, and there's nowhere for it to go.  They told us that we didn't have to leave, but we might get flooded in.  I watched 5-6 campers leave in the next hour before falling asleep. 

I woke up at 4:00 to see if I could get out.  They closed the gate to keep people from coming in.  They must've forgot that people need to leave.  Thankfully it was opened by 6:00am.

Shitter's full